Warriors vs Clippers could end up being an all-time compelling series. But which team would be better suited to beat the other in a 7 game series and likely represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals?
Taking a look at the Clippers
At the moment, I would contend that the Clippers are playing like the best team in the NBA, and their net rating of +13.8 points per 100 possessions would also substantiate this claim.
Their effective FG% is so superb, in spite of having to give significant minutes to perennial non-shooters like Luc Mbah a Moute and Raymond Felton
And for comparison, here's a look at how efficient Luc Mbah a Moute has got a TS % that is about 10% higher than normal despite having a higher 3PA/FGA rate. I have qualms about whether or not this is truly sustainable from Luc.
And Felton, It’s tough to believe that he can continue to shoot quite so efficiently.
The fact that the Clippers are this dominant so far this season with a plethora of non-shooters in the league is truly a testament to the impactive nature of DeAndre Jordan. While he's hard-pressed to make shots outside of 6 feet, he can attack the lane without the ball, and defenders gravitate toward him as if he were the center of the Earth.
By the numbers, his teammates simply shoot more efficiently, because the frequency with which they get more uncontested looks increases as he's on the court.
JJ Redick and Luc Mbah a Moute are always open simply because of how paramount it is to impede Jordan from getting to the rim in transition.
It also helps that Blake Griffin is a crafty playmaker. This is what propelled them over the San Antonio Spurs in 2015, and he is what the Clippers sorely missed this past season. He averages 6.3 AST per 100 poss this season and has the ability to create for DeAndre Jordan. Additionally, he's second in the team in passes made; Griffin creates several potential assists per game as well.
Defensively, the Clippers have been stifling the opposition. DeAndre Jordan is the rim protector that Golden State simply cannot afford. In conjunction with smart defenders like Paul and Redick, this is a recipe for success.
Taking a look at the Warriors
There are a few salient points from this diagram, as highlighted. Their strength of schedule is out of their control, but they've been vastly superior offensively - 3 points/100 poss ahead of the Clippers (2nd) & 10 points ahead of the league average.
And all without Klay's production
Potentially, the Warriors could have the most potent offensive attack in recent history.
According to Bleacher Report, the 2003-04 Dallas Mavericks had the best offense (comparative to average league off. efficiency for its season). Steve Nash led an offense that scored 8.94% more points per 100 poss. than the average NBA team during the 2003-04 season. Right now, the Warriors are scoring 9.59% more points per 100 poss. than the average NBA this season.
They stack up nobly against the likes of Showtime, Jordan's Bulls, Larry Bird and co., and Steve Nash in the 7 seconds or less Offense.
However, their defense appears to be quite porous. The defensive rating of 108.4 could be inflated because of a variety of factors.
The Warriors have played in 5 such cases, but only for a total of 9 minutes with a net rating of +74.4, which would suggest that they are so proficient in clutch situations that they essentially remove themselves from the danger when necessary. Their two losses have been in lopsided fashion; therefore, it's still unknown whether or not another team will have the talent to upend them if the game is in the balance.
In addition to the spectacular numbers, it appears as if the Warriors have the playoff pedigree to win games in the Western Conference despite their flaws. From their "try to outscore us" bravado that their frequent, unstoppable offensive spurts suggest to Draymond's insistence that he's worthy of Defensive Player of Year, the new-look Warriors seem impervious to a 7 game series defeat.
All things considered, it's difficult to expect the Clippers to overcome the Warriors in the playoffs.
Can the Clippers improve upon SF options such as Luc Mbah a Moute and Wesley Johnson?
It may be imperative to improve this position in order to be an insurmountable force come playoff time. Are there available options that can be significantly more impactive?
At the moment, Luc Mbah a Moute has an RPM of 1.91 and a DRPM of 3.05. His RPM is 12th among PFs, although he starts as an SF in the Clippers' scheme. So he certainly brings forth great value on the defensive end which is essential to the Clippers' stellar defensive efficiency, but as we discussed before, his floor spacing may be an anomaly.
Wesley Johnson has an RPM of -1.21 (46th among SFs) and a DRPM of 0.38. These numbers aren't absolutely horrendous for a reverse; nevertheless, if the Clippers would really like to ensure that they've got a great chance against Golden State, they should pursue a wing player who will not be an immense liability on defense.
A few potential options
1. Rudy Gay (SAC) - 2.32 RPM, 0.57 DRPM - Makes $13.3 million this year and has a player option for 2017-18 2.
2. Danilo Gallinari (DEN) - 1.32 RPM, 0.73 DRPM - Makes $15 million this year and $16 million next year
3. Wilson Chandler (DEN) - 0.58 RPM, 0.14 DRPM - Making $11.2 million this year and has 3 years left on his deal
4. Robert Covington (PHI) - 0.59 RPM, 1.87 DRPM - Certainly would be a gift because he's making $1 million for the next two years. May not have the offensive consistency or the playoff pedigree to become a definite, long-term upgrade over Luc Mbah a Moute
The problem is that the Clippers lack the young talent to entice others to hand over talented players who could help LA's roster.
Hypothetically, we could have a trade like this, but...
It'll be tough, and LA will most likely not want to disrupt the chemistry that CP3 and JJ Redick have created. After all, they run an entire Floppy set to utilize him. It might require 3 teams to pull off a trade to gain a major upgrade. The Clippers simply haven't invested in enough youth to make massive changes.
The Clippers are a great team, and roster continuity has allowed them to grow stronger over the years. They may give the Golden State Warriors a run for their money in the playoffs, but eventually the wing talent discrepancy could be the Clippers' undoing vs the Warriors.